Language and design in sensitive interactions


A story in 4 pictures.

Case number 1 - Right use of words


Stockholm subway uses an interesting choice of words, alongside colour codes and signs. The latter visually indicate direction of movement and danger, respectively, while colours used are typical of a yes/ no situation.

The words, however, are what caught my attention: rather than an Up/ Down approach, they used "Up" and "Not up" - excellent choice! Imagine the use case: you are just out of the train and in a hurry to get to the bus, which is a good 5 minutes walk. Rushing through the crowd, you need to position in the direction of the escalators: spotting the difference between the two is crucial here, and 'up' and 'not up' do a great job at that. Similarly, and even slightly at a more dangerous scenario (walking down an up-moving escalator can cause serious pain), choosing the right escalator going down to the trains is made easy by using "Down" and "Not down".

Case number 2: An excellent choice of words.


Hasn't it happened to all of us: deleting something by mistake and then instantly realising we should have pressed the other button instead? Confusion rises every time a pop up asks us whether we want to save our work or not. Or does it say "Do you want to discard? Yes/ No"? Or is it "Are you sure you want to leave the page and discard progress"? The binary Yes/ No or even the Yes/ No/ Cancel are almost sure to make the user hesitate a bit. And habituation doesn't help: different systems and websites use different patterns so you must always think a bit. But the tides are turning! Instead of Yes/ No, the language has now shifted to the words for the actual actions. I was editing a photo on my Samsung 6s and this came up when I wanted to leave the editor and go back to the my gallery. So much better than choosing between yes or no, don't you think?

Case number 3: A dangerous button.


So I sign up and it asks me to set up a security question (There's not even a list to choose from). The text on the top says "Welcome, you are now signed in", while I apparently haven't completed the signup process yet. But probably this is minor to the text on the buttons at the end of the form: "Ok" and "Sign out" - the latter a bit out of place and probably too soon to offer a sign out, since the signing up is not completely done, either. Moreover, this also 'violates' the Sign-out pattern: usually tucked away in a corner, last in a dropdown list.

Case number 4: Yet another dangerous button.


I was searching for job positions based on location, when I found myself clearing the inputs on the form, most probably because the Clear button looks more clickable than the actual Search one. One quick solution would be to leave only "Search" in this line and to move "Clear" below, in the form of a link. Something like this:



© 2019 Egi Shijaku